Posts Tagged ‘metal’

Winds of Plague’s Unintentional Psychology Lesson

February 8, 2009

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

…clearly the fact that theirs music fucking sucks only makes things more unpleasant.

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The Ten/Fourteen Best Songs of 2008

December 21, 2008

Though Metal Sucks had me write a top ten albums of 2008 list (which, in the interest of full disclosure, had me squealing giddily, as I’ve always wanted to write a top ten list for more than just my own amusement), in cliched retrospect, one has to wonder what the point of writing about albums was in a time where the youngfolk essentially pick and choose their favorite songs anyway. While I think declaring the album dead is a bold and inaccurate statement, it seemed to matter less.

Or maybe it just seemed to matter less to me. When putting together my top ten for Metal Sucks, I considered throwing in a few non-metal curveballs. I thought otherwise, thinking that this was a metal website, and that it should rightfully be the top ten metal records of 2008. However, upon thinking of my favorite new records, the only ones that rung with me were metal. Upon looking at Rolling Stone and Pitchfork’s choices, I couldn’t help but notice how I almost angrily didn’t give a fuck about what they thought were the best releases of the year. While I confess I’m still ignorant about My Morning Jacket (and have been putting it off for the better part of a decade), I must say I have no desire to know anything about the Hold Steady, Of Montreal, Deerhunter, Vampire Weekend, or Fleet Foxes. I had no particular ill will toward MGMT or M83, but I also personally saw no cause to give a shit. The non-metal music I got into this year all seemed to came from the past (and occasionally deep past): Simon and Garfunkel, Yes, the Zombies, Fleetwood Mac (and not hip Fleetwood Mac, but the lame, multimillion selling shit), 1999-era Prince, Maggot Brain, and Charles Mingus, to name a few. Is it because I’m getting older, and I even need an alternative to the alternative to today’s terminally ill pop mainstream? Almost definitely. But there was still stuff to like out there, some of it even without screaming, growling, or having Erik Rutan put the drums way too high in the mix.

10) British Sea Power- “No Lucifer”/ “Waving Flags”
The richness of British Sea Power’s Do You Like Rock Music? resonated throughout the year. While indie rock got seemingly endless mileage on forced quirk, dreadful faux-kitsch, and the fumes of overhype, the band seemed to have the goods to thrust themselves deep into the soul, with warm production and somehow simultaneously combining subtly sad melodies with epic, triumphant crescendos. “No Lucifer” sounds like the sun reemerging after a week of rain, while “Waving Flags”– with it’s plentiful melody backed by enough reverb for several rooms– sounds like the national anthem of an underachieving but goodhearted country. Both songs sounded big and heartfelt, which was more than welcome in a year where indie further doused itself in 80s minimalism fetish. I spent the end of this year wondering if I’d fallen out of love with indie rock as a whole; British Sea Power pointed out what I’d be missing.

9) Neuraxis- “Phoenix”
Though The Thin Line Between wasn’t short on great riffs or good songs, “Phoenix” was its centerpiece, pulling all out the melodic death metal stops while not sounding like a bland retread. The Zao/Poison the Well chords of the chorus could put a smirk on the face of the most hardened grindcore devotee, which coupled with its lyrics (predictably about rising from the ashes) was nothing short of anthemic. The first few seconds of “Phoenix“, no matter where I am, result in a raised fist and a sneer, which then proceeds to stay that way for the five minutes that follow. I could go on about the nuts and bolts of it, but its greatness lies simply in the fact that “Phoenix” is just fucking balls.

8) Kanye West- “See You in My Nightmares”
The epic kiss off at the center of this year’s (relatively) understated 808s and Heartbreak warrants the aforementioned raised fist, even if it’s to leaving the girlfriend I don’t have for treating me wrong. And Lil’ Wayne, pulling from his bottomless (diamond encrusted) bag of tricks manages to make his cathartic/borderline unbearable verse worthwhile by sprinkling some Weezy dust on it. But it’s West’s robotic croon of “I don’t love you no more” that lifted the song into the stratosphere. That being said, if I never hear an autotuned voice after this year, I will shed no tears.

7) Lil’ Wayne- “Mr. Carter”/ “A Milli”/ “Nothin’ on Me”
And speaking of Wayne, apparently he put out a record this year. Tha Carter III felt like many of my other favorite hip hop albums: 4 or 5 songs too long, and almost impossible to listen to from start to finish. But there are very few completely solid rap records, and one must give the man credit for not stumbling down the skit/interlude path that ruins most releases. The good on Carter III was stellar, and lived up to the half decade of hype. Wayne’s genius lies in being better than anyone around him, thus when dealing with the combative egos of other rappers– even ones that have sold tens of millions of records and are firmly established in the public’s consciousness– they tend to bring their A+ game, resulting in the best guest verses of their careers. “Mr. Carter” saw Lil’ Wayne standing eye-to-eye with the towering legacy of Jay-Z while Jay brought an almost Reasonable Doubt smoothness to his performance. “Nothin’ on Me” sports the first good Fabolous verse I’ve ever heard, and has a Juelz Santana contribution that makes me stop wondering why the fuck I should care about Juelz Santana. Of course, these dudes still couldn’t top Wayne himself, who with the brilliantly sparse “A Milli” showed he could hold down a ridiculous, ridiculous beat by himself.

6) American Me- “Said Nothing, Began Firing”
The mean riff that “Said Nothing, Began Firing” is based on the sort of instant gratification that hardcore has long forgotten. Slowing a breakdown down to a just-above-drone pace could induce boredom, but here, it provides menace. There’s nothing about Heat that was nonviolent, but this song is the apex of its temper. A hundred listens later, “Said Nothing, Began Firing” still brings about a heavy nod, and tickles the primal urge to, well, fuck shit up.

5) Darkthrone- “Hiking Metal Punks”/ “Hanging out in Haiger”
After doing away with banshee rasping and sloppy blast beats altogether on last year’s F.O.A.D., Darkthrone fully embraced their inner dopey-ass man on Dark Thrones and Black Flags, augmenting the occasional flourish of black metal with top-notch riffery and Motorhead-inspired drumming. “Hiking Metal Punks” and “Hanging out in Haiger” are both great songs, but really knock it out of the park with their outros: “Punks” rides a blackened punk riff like an icy fjord wave (is that a thing…?) and “Haiger” closes things out with a delightful ode to Boston or Deep Purple. After spending the last decade scowling in the forest, they’re getting around to enjoying themselves on this one. Oddly enough, this is probably the first time they’ve been listenable to anyone living outside of Oslo in 1992.

4) Jesu- “The Stars that Hang Above You”
I didn’t think Jesu could top last year’s Conqueror and Lifeline. And, per usual, I was right. Though this year was pretty slight for them in terms of quality, this gem taken from their split with Japanese post-hardcoresters Envy is the tender emoting by way of Justin Broadrick’s down tuned chugging guitars that made his slobbering fan boys show up in the first place. I’ve already written about this song before, but it’s worth noting again that, despite my misgivings with the Jesu of 2008, this song stands shoulder to shoulder with their premo shit. Let’s hope 2009 will be another great/ambiguously depressing year for Jesu.

3) Cult of Luna- “Ghost Trail”
Though they don’t necessarily blow their wad 3 songs into this year’s excellent Eternal Kingdom, nothing quite topped “Ghost Trail” on the three-quarters of the album that followed. Sweden’s finest post-metallers managed to sound both stately and savage, using their warm guitars to build up to crushing storm cloud-complimented peaks they seemingly promised. Cult of Luna have earned their place in art metal, and ideally, they’ll be around for a fucking while.

2) Fuck Buttons- “Bright Tomorrow”
Fuck Buttons spent all of Street Horrrsing testing patience– letting parts of songs run a minute or two longer than our pop music attention span would allow and counteracting a nice, mellow techno part with fierce, static-y blare– but nailed the formula on it’s lead single “Bright Tomorrow”. The almost-black metal noise that obliterates the cautious, polite buildup that preceded it comes from nowhere, but makes enough sense to make you think that it was always just hanging in your periphery. The music milks every bit of evocative potential from its two word title, ranging from quiet promise to jagged disappointment. An enlightening listen every time.

1) Nachtmystium- “Assassins”
Though the “psychedelic black metal” thing is already starting to feel played out, it’d be criminal to talk about music in 2008 without mentioning this solid slab of blackened goodness. Shifting from midpaced black metal to bar-punk anthem to chilly Norwegian-style blast fest to an almost post-rock coda, “Assassins” starts the album of the same name out on an Alps-ian high note. The ambition of “Assassins” probably still stands as the best single representative of the genre shifting to come, and the daring moves it takes in the interim.

A Bold, Fresh Piece of Humanity?

December 19, 2008

Though “deathcore” has gotten itself a bad name in the last year or two, I’ve always thought of Misery Index as the pinnacle of it. Their first few releases– Retaliate and Dissent, especially– have a loose, hardcore swagger to them, but are still plenty rooted in grind and death metal. Though not as admirable as Dying Fetus (of which members of Misery Index were once a part), I find those two albums are some of the metal records I listen to the most (when determined, I’m a runner, and I defy you to find a better collection of songs to move your blood than Retaliate). Whereas hardcore has come to mean “breakdowns” to anythingcore bands, Misery Index are both aged and well-versed enough to grasp the full spectrum of the genre and slyly combine it with other “extreme metal” elements to remind us that, well, if the guys in Slayer didn’t like hardcore, metal would have never gotten fast. Though hardcore and metal exist, usually confidently, on two different sides, the line between the two is thin, and they do a lot more overlapping than we think. Early Misery Index is one of the bands that overlap the best.

With that in mind, I was hesitant to check out Traitors, their latest. I was anxious at first, only due to the album’s cover art (which is saying a lot, in that I haven’t been impressed by a band’s cover art in years. The last decade has been awful in terms of album artwork). Upon hearing a few tracks in advance, I was unimpressed: the music sounded rigid and slick, with a lot more death metal riffing than I’m used to from them. But on a more visceral level, nothing popped out at me. I was disappointed, then moved on to the seeming plethora of other great death metal that came out this year (Hate Eternal? Dead Covenant? Arsis? Origin? Neuraxis? Yes please! And Jesus Christ, there was more!) Not to say that Misery Index sold out– an album like Traitors, no matter what your feeling on it are, was certainly not made with financial gain in mind– but it felt like the band was past its prime, downshifting from impressive to adequate.

Though with the end of the year at hand, I couldn’t help but notice how many year end lists (well, in the metal-sphere, anyway) had Traitors on it. The album was fairly well received, but I didn’t think it was considered “great.” I eschewed Discordia— their last album– as seemingly everyone else had, and thought of this as just an extension of that aforementioned adequacy-not-greatness. But the praise for it seemed strangely unanimous. So, having not yet checked it out, I decided to give it a chance.

And the results are– wait for it– mixed! Though better than I had originally thought, my initial impressions were correct: the album is too clean-sounding and stiff to recapture my interest in full. That being said, Traitors is no work of half-assery; it’s a brass knuckled punch to the jaw. It suffers mostly from what I call Chinese Democracy Syndrome: were it released by a band I’d never heard of, I’d think more of the album. But because it’s Misery Index, I expect more. Is that fair? Absolutely not. But is it how we collectively think? Absolutely. To start as a band of great quality means the pressure of great expectations. And if you are a truly great band, those expectations should be met. Of course, the middling nature of Discordia and the not-as-good-as-it-should-be status of Traitors doesn’t necessarily reflect on the band overall; after all, Bob Dylan wasn’t so hot in the 80s and most of the 90s, but has had a late-career renaissance most bands and artists don’t experience. Or more toward Misery Index’s sound: Celtic Frost.

That being said, the core of Misery Index is, for the most part, still intact. The guitars are  meaty as hell, but fast and unrelenting. Vocalist/bassist Jason Netherton still has the sandpaper bark that’s graced every MI full length, EP, and split. The band’s uncanny knack of knowing when to shift gears between genres is still unmatched, while paying attention to cohesion and not slipping into the choppy depths of the kitchen sink-core craze (Heavy Heavy Low Low, The Number Twelve Looks Like You, etc. bloody etc.) of the early part of this decade. The less-then-exceptional parts (the outro riff on “Ghosts of Catatonia” wasting its brilliant build up, the too-straight up hardcore of “The Arbiter”, the fact that “Thrown into the Sun” is by a wide margin the worst song Misery Index have ever put to tape) are overshadowed by the record’s best moments (the top notch intro “We Never Come in Peace”; the album closer “Black Sites” dipping into melodic death metal only enough to stick to your ribs as opposed to playing to your sweet tooth; plus many, many other opportune points of plain ol’ solid extreme metal). Expecting too much from Traitors is a shame, in that despite its imperfections, the band still seems to be on top of their game.

Of course, the band are missing the grime and groove that made them so likable to begin with. The blame rests solely with two culprits: producer Kurt Ballou and drummer Adam Jarvis. Ballou’s had a fucking STRONG string of production credits in the last few years: Animosity’s Animal, Torche’s Meanderthal, Disfear’s Live the Storm… hell, he even made the last Elysia record bearable. But Traitors is too antiseptic. The guitars, while having Kurt’s signature crunch, are rigidly married to the beat as opposed to just swinging along with it. Jarvis is an able death metal drummer, but Misery Index aren’t really a death metal band. The brilliance of original Misery Index drummers Kevin Talley and Matt Byers (and in defense of Jarvis, they’re tough acts to follow) was that their styles were noncommittal, bobbing and weaving between grindcore blasts, mid-paced death metal, and deep hardcore grooves. By sticking to just one style of drumming (plus not having the same sense of groove as the aforementioned former sticksmen), Jarvis takes some of the excitement from the band. There really aren’t any sloppy segues, but there aren’t any enlightening shifts, either.

But there’s something delightfully angry about Traitors that seems to hit the spot after the last ridiculous year in our country’s history. With Rage Against the Machine and Fugazi missing in action, and other important or notable bands not attacking Bush and America’s obese consumption addiction with the lobster-faced anger of Misery Index (possibly because, with Bush’s unequivocal political sadism and the nation’s laziness slow rotting away our physical land at home and our standing abroad , the target was too easy and slow moving, which isn’t necessarily a bad decision), it’s nice to hear a band this ANGRY about the bullshit to which we’ve grown accustomed. By no means is Traitors perfect, and it won’t age as well as their early work. But in the climate in which it came out (in the shadow of America’s most politically toxic era and deathcore looking to do for death metal to what Dick Cheney did for executive privilege), it’s a sobering slap to the face. Like a sneeze or a shot of espresso, it’ll jerk you back into consciousness, despite its blemishes. Wake up.

Sevens

July 30, 2008
To kick this updating thing into high gear (or… any gear), I’ve decided to shamelessly rip off something I saw on another few blogs (invisible oranges and aversionline, to name a few). Presenting: 7 Songs I’m Into at the Moment or Something.
1) Krallice– “Wretched Wisdom”
Krallice is the side project of Behold… the Arctopus guitarist Colin Marston, though you can’t decipher his ridiculous fusion tech-death roots from the streamlined melodic black metal of this band. Though the album suffers from thin production, the sheer volume of pitch-perfect melodicism makes up for it most of the time. “Wretched Wisdom” seemingly blows their self titled debut’s wad almost right out of the gate, with the song serving as the album’s opener and almost impossibly high watermark. But the waves of layered guitar, both liltingly sad and sneeringly propulsive at once, and howling vocals (done in a very un-black metal style) of “Wretched Wisdom” demand both your attention and chills with each listen. If these kids can manage to focus more in the future, they could contribute something really significant to the already rich American black metal scene.
2) Girl Talk- “Once Again”
Though Girl Talk just put out another ridiculously great album of mash-up brilliance, I’m still fixated on the opener of last year’s “Night Ripper”. Though I could go into the dozens of nuanced reasons, it’s really because of two factors: Ludacris verse from a song I hate reimagined over my favorite Boston riff (the one from “Foreplay/Long Time”). Girl Talk does a lot of this sort of thing with Luda; hell, they do it twice on their latest. And my thing with Ludacris is a relatively similar problem that I have with Jesu: Jesu EP’s and splits= excellent. Jesu full lengths= trying but sometimes rewarding. Ludacris songs= hey, that’s alright. Ludacris verses on shitty songs= goddamn, that was awesome! See how that works? Of course you don’t. But my long, belabored point is to place those great verses over something worthwhile really builds a permanent timeshare in my heart… keep it up, Girl Talk guy.
3) Sinead O’Connor- “Fire on Babylon”
My issue with Sinead is that she doesn’t have any sort of set sound or style; she just moves along with whatever trends catch her fancy at the time she writes her music. Her early work was jagged, folky post-punk, the 90s fluxuated between synth-driven balladry and “Ray of Light”-style intelligent pop (with the occasional drum loop or skittery pseudo-drum and bass beat), today she’s… doing really odd, not-always-successful things (her last album was a reggae jaunt called “Theology”… ugh), but the draw has never been her compositional prowess, but instead that fucking VOICE. I can’t think of any other voice in popular music since (early) Grace Slick that’s been equally tuneful and a force of nature at the same time. This particular song harnesses the no-bullshit fury O’Connor is known for, while still managing to hit high notes that I didn’t know existed without sacrificing an iota of expression. She’s always been an interesting dichotomy: on the one hand, she’s wounded and vulnerable, nursing a heart broken by her countrymen, Catholicism, the fickle public, and the men and women that have been involved with her; on the other, she’s a strong, confident, very angry woman. The two cross often, and to brilliant effect. On “Fire on Babylon”, she sounds overwhelmed, wounded, venomous, and dangerous all at once. Meaning, of course, she’s a woman I like.
4) Nachtmystium- “Seasick”
Nachtmystium’s closing suite on this year’s excellent Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1 was a letdown at first: it was the song that every pre-review of the album raved about as the epic album closer, often comparing it to “Echoes”, the closer on Pink Floyd’s (regular) Meddle. Truth is, though, when you average all 3 songs together, it only adds up to 7 minutes. And initial listens do sort of convey a sort of lack of focus, providing what seems to be an unfitting ending for an otherwise strong album. But further listens (and even listens to each part individually… thanks iPod shuffle!) unveil the song’s brilliance: it’s that “lack of focus,” which is actually more of a liberating looseness, that provides the song’s true quality. Parts 2 and 3 are where the song lifts off, propelled by Santana-channeling guitar work and a goddamn knockout sax solo by Yakuza’s Bruce Lamont. When both the solos intertwine at the end of part 2 to form one beautifully hideous note that dissipates into a psychedelic mist, it knocks the wind out of you. It’s not black metal anymore, of course; it’s just good.
5) Crosby, Stills, and Nash- “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”
…and while we’re on the subject of suites, this is a song I’ve been obsessed with for the better part of the summer. It’s one I’ve always had a fleeting knowledge of, both through my mother and the fact that I know more about rock history than other more relevant history. But I’ve never really listened to it, which has been a shame. The song is gravy on top of butter on top of icing on the cake. It’s essentially four neat little sixties folk rock numbers melded together as one big plea for forgiveness, with a throng of man-harmonies as a lead vocal line, something you don’t hear nearly often enough– or at all– in popular music today. It’s deep and heartfelt enough not to be breezy but competently fluid as to avoid being an overwrought chunk of the Summer of Love. Hearing the live version from Woodstock is equally telling: David Crosby’s insistence in the middle of the performance into the mic that there needs to be less “low end in the guitar, please,” perhaps the most prickish thing done in the ’60s this side of bombing Cambodia, and the last part with it’s “do do do do do, do do, do do do do” acting as catnip for filthy hippies, as a crowd full of them that had never heard the song before began clapping along without being told to do so by the performers. Like any great song, I hate the end of it, because I know it will soon be over. And for a 7 1/2 minute song to be too short, especially by ’60s standards, is a true goddamn achievement.
6) Morrissey- “That’s How People Grow Up”

There is no reason why Morrissey should be making music this consistently good and relevatory this late into his career… hell, this is 20 years into his solo career, which really should have meant that it was stuff not decent enough for the Smiths. But Morrissey has found a unique voice for his solo material and has mostly yielded good results, from not-too-bad to rivaling his Smiths-ian output. “That’s How People Grow Up” is a track tacked on to his latest Greatest Hits collection, which in itself is a cash grab. Or maybe it’s to secure a solid place for this song, as he isn’t putting out a new album just yet and the medium of the single is, well, dead. The song itself is still in the vein of his recent solo work: robust and full of confidence, finding Morrissey comfortable in the role of crooning elder statesman. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of scraped knee rawness in the song, with Morrissey, even after strides toward being a semi-adjusted adult with a regular sex drive on his last album, lamenting years lost to wanting to be in love, ending with the delightfully condescending line, “So yes, there are things worse in life than never being someone’s sweetie.” The song, much like the aforementioned Sinead O’Connor’s “No Man’s Woman”, manages to find liberation in rejecting the idea of having a lover outright. Those over the age of 22, who with each passing day enter a world more and more based on pairing up with someone for the sake of not dying alone, the song is a call to arms.
7) Jesu- “The Stars that Hang Above You”
Jesu’s contribution to their half of their split with Envy is the definition of so-so: the first song, a 13 minute exercise in shoegazing, is tiring and pointless. The second, “The Stars that Hang Above You”, is up there with the best that Jesu’s done. It works off of a bassline very reminiscent of “Glosoli” from Sigur Ros’ Takk, and slowly builds on it, eventually piling on a herd of distorted guitars as the beat intensifies. Justin Broadrick’s voice stays at a deadpan mumble, even as the music ebbs around him, climaxing with high velocity double bass and chunky guitar chords plodding along, all maintaining the beauty with which the song began. Then it stops and fades out, leaving you feeling pulverized and not sure why, as Jesu songs are just supposed to make you sad…
Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Chaos to Order to Chaos Again

May 23, 2008

Mayhem get a bad rap (dear God, pardon the paradox). Truth be told, that’s mostly their own fault, considering that they spent the early part of their career burning churches along with killing themselves and eachother. And during that burnin’ and killin’ phase, unsurprisingly, their music was rather lackluster. Actually, to pretty much anyone outside the scene, the music was terrible.  Like with most “true” black metal, I consider it a had-to-be-there kind of thing.

Of course, having your bass player stab your guitarist (who also wrote most of your music) is something that would sink most bands, as it did Mayhem… for a while. The band returned in the late ’90s to put out by far the best and most diverse music of its career, which of course was overshadowed by the music made by the God-deflin’, stabbin’ incarnation of the band. This is a shame too, as the band’s latter work shows a lot of forward-thinking, something almost universally absent in black metal.

The main reason why they got so significantly better was due to Blasphemer (who along with former bandmates Maniac and Necrobutcher easily have the worst pseudonyms in black metal), the man who would replace Euronymous (actually, add him to the worst pseudonym list as well) on guitar. While Euronymous’ work has probably suffered due to 14 years of being regurgitated by every Johnny Necro in the black metal biz, Blasphemer’s writing seems to go above on beyond not only black metal standards but metal standards as well, probably coming closest to evoking Wagner without getting an orchestra or synthesizer involved (and, in fact, even closer than them, as metal and orchestras have yet to yield any decent result, as far as I’m concerned). His riffs manage to be both stately and raw, the precise middle point that all things heavy should aspire to. Add to that that Blasphemer took the reins as head songwriter as well transformed Mayhem from a bunch of guys in face paint worshiping Satan and occasionally killing eachother to a dare I say mature black metal band trying to push the genre past its inherent silliness and genuinely try to make it a force of fucking nature.

Ordo ad Chao, Mayhem’s latest album, is the best representation of this era of the band, as the band’s former vocalist (the one that was kicked out of the band for drinking and getting thrown down a flight of stairs, not the one that killed himself and had bits of his skull worn as jewelery by the other band members) Maniac sounded a little like a chain smoking ally cat being gang raped. The music and production on the last album he appeared on, 2004’s Chimera, was astounding enough to make the listener not as focused on that (well, after a few listens). But Ordo ad Chao hearkens the return of Attila Csihar, the vocalist on Mayhem’s first full length De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. But while Attila’s vocals on that album are certainly atypical for black metal– certainly a considerable feat, at the time– they were also laughably bad. And while one got the sense that they were meant to be that way– more performance art than botched sepulchral emoting– it hindered the experience of listening to the album. The Attila Csihar of Ordo ad Chao is the fully realized version of his De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas predecessor, using his vocal quirks to go along with the music instead of separating itself from it. He jumps back and forth between postapocalyptic carnival barker to weeping asylum inmate to seemingly typical black metal rasping and death metal growling to finger-wagging prophet, often in the course of one song, as Ordo ad Chao‘s near 10 minute epic “Illuminate Eliminate” would suggest. Csihar managed to bring enough avant garde to black metal to keep it interesting, yet still manages to work within Mayhem’s savage heaviness. That in itself makes the album worth it.

Of course, what makes Ordo ad Chao such an exceptional record is that all the elements are there. Hellhammer’s drumming has also matured, seemingly taking a page from the “throw some mind-blowing fills in there whenever the riffs are at risk of becoming stale” chapter of Mastodon’s How-To book, keeping the album at an almost constant forward momentum. Blasphemer’s playing is both metal-heavy and punk rock sloppy, yet never at a point where it doesn’t sound like the man doesn’t know what he’s doing. And as far as his composing goes, Ordo ad Chao seems to be a direct response to the relative-accessibility of Chimera, creating a thick wall of blackened apocalyptic madness that seems almost impenetrable on the first few listens. Part of this wall is the production, which is terrible. But terrible production is the norm in black metal; that being said, I don’t think a band has ever used grimy production to its favor as well as Mayhem has on this album. The music is easily the most elevated, technical, and intense in all of Mayhem’s catalog, but one never gets the sense that it’s not being created by any more than a few Norwegian guys (well, and one Hungarian, as Attila Csihar is literally from Transylvania. I hear they have a great Quizno’s there) in a room together: the drums are unequalized, meaning they sound as drums usually sound when you’re standing right in front of them (also meaning the ride symbol is often the loudest thing you’ll hear, which is something I’m used to associating with Songs in the Key of Life more than anything); the guitar’s a fuzzy mess and ripples with reverb  every time the full band comes to a halt, something that’s usually shaved off in post-production. At first, it sounds like the band rushed this into existence, not bothering to take the extra week to master the album. But further listens make the band’s intent clear: the album just sounds fucking RAW without proper production values, hearkening back more to hardcore than their basement kvlt black metal brethren. It’s music that doesn’t need gloss to make it appealing, something the likes of their contemporaries in Darkthrone have been striving for for years and yet have never actually achieved.

So, with what could very well be Mayhem’s best album yet, Blasphemer has quit the band, citing that he doesn’t think the band has a future. Seeing as both Attila and Hellhammer play in dozens (no really, actually dozens) of other bands and Necrobutcher (yes, I take the bass stylings of Necrobutcher to task!) didn’t even play on Ordo ad Chao, he may have a point. A Mayhem without Blasphemer really signals the end for the band, as third incarnations tend to take advantage of the good will of the band’s fanbase as opposed to resulting in anything remotely good (see: Genesis, Van Halen, Chicago– Jesus Christ, who the hell is even in Chicago anymore?). And that’s a damn shame, as Mayhem had just made an album that harnesses the kind of evil and endtimes chaos that black metal has been meandering around for the last twenty or so years.